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Hear How The Surge In COVID-19 Deaths Is Taking A Toll On This Florida Doctor

 Dr. Syed M. Zaidi says it's been especially challenging to work in hospitals in the Tampa Bay region during the delta surge.
Syed Zaidi
Dr. Syed M. Zaidi says it's been especially challenging to work in hospitals in the Tampa Bay region during the delta surge.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining in Florida. But the situation is still bleak for many health care workers, who are watching patients admitted during the delta surge die after weeks of battling the disease.

Dr. Syed Zaidi, practices internal medicine, as an independent contractor at hospitals in Brandon and Bradenton.

In his own words, he shared his experience treating severely ill COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated, and said that the past couple of months have been some of the hardest of his life:

You know, it's an uphill battle, and every day I go to work, I feel like I've lost.

Before we would come home, you know I would tell my wife about the people that have made it through or that my medicine has helped. These people aren't going home.

I can tell you that these past two weeks that I've been working, I've signed the most death certificates that I have in my entire career.

RELATED: How Deadly Is Florida's Delta Surge? USF Health Expert Breaks It Down

And we are seeing younger and younger patients. Before, people would come in, you know, they would be 65, 70, and they would be on the ventilator and wouldn't come off of it. Now we have 30-year-olds, 35-year-olds, people that are my age that are dying. And it's so preventable.

Out of the 30 patients I saw today, 22 were COVID and only one of them was vaccinated fully and she's probably going to leave later today. Everyone else is unvaccinated.

I have a 32-year-old woman, she's 22 weeks pregnant. She's been on the ventilator since she was 19 weeks. It's crazy. All because of a shot.

You don't want to get the vaccine because back then it wasn't FDA approved, now it (the Pfizer vaccine) is, now people have other excuses.

It's really confounding when people come in and they want Regeneron, which makes one of the antibody treatments, all of this is experimental. They want that, they don't want the vaccine.

I had a patient ask me to write a script for ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug. It is not safe. But you don't want to get the vaccine because that's experimental? It just doesn't add up.

And that's really why I reached out to you because I felt like I was at my wit's end. And this pandemic has become so much more difficult than what it really needs to be.

The misinformation and the lack of patient trust in us is just absolutely astounding. I always ask, “Why didn't you get the vaccine?” And most times people come up with, “Oh, we were too busy,” or, “I was just about to get it.” Another woman said, “I have done my own research,” I think this is the most predominant thing. And unfortunately, this was someone that actually passed away.

When she got sicker, she told me, “I'm going to leave and get the vaccine.” And I told her that it was too late. But she should tell her friends and family to get vaccinated because being in here, this experience has changed her mind. And she showed me the Facebook group that she sent the message out to. And the next day when I came, she was already transferred into the ICU and she was on a ventilator and she didn't make it.

There has to be a point where this starts taking a toll on you mentally, and it has, not only for me, for all the doctors out there. It's just been a constant struggle without an end in sight. The vaccine was our end, we thought this was going to be over when the vaccine came.

After all, no matter what we feel, what we do, we signed up for this, we're trained to do this. You know, we just we try to do the best we can.

The other day I told this patient, I was like, “I don't want to send you home until your wife gets vaccinated.” And he was like, “I hear you, doc.” And he texted her and she got an appointment. She walked into CVS the next day, she got vaccinated and then a day later, she came to pick him up. These are such big victories for us. It keeps us going. But unfortunately those are far and few in between.

Please get the vaccine. In the hospital, we see despair, we see regret. We see people that would change their situation in a minute if they had an option to. Don't be one of them.

We promise you, as your physicians, that the vaccine is safe. So trust us, believe us. We're tired, we're exhausted. We don't want this to go on and we need your help."

An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the extent of FDA approval for remdesivir. The FDA granted remdesivir full approval to treat COVID-19 in hospitalized adults. The reference to the drug has been removed.

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Stephanie Colombini